Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What is Culture in Greater Cincinnati?

Not long ago, Vanity Fair took some shots at the Queen City and local bloggers and Enquirer editor Tom Callinan came to the city's defense. Here we are only a couple of months later and Portfolio.com ranks Cincinnati 65th in the nation of cultured cities and the locals are lining up defenses again. You can read (if you dare) comments here that have begun listing our museums, festivals, the CSO, etc. Sure, we have lots of places to see culture (I offer tours to many). I don't think anyone has ever argued this, and certainly Vanity Fair and Portfolio.com do not criticize the number of events and venues. So what's missing? Cincinnati culture.

So, you want to challenge the ranking? Identify Cincinnati's culture. This does not mean, list venues for culture. What is the culture of Greater Cincinnati?

Can you identify it?



Anne said...

Restrained yet friendly, plus some displays of the ridiculously sublime -- e.g., any structure by Hannaford. What was he thinking? Who gets the assignment to design a high school and dreams up that gargantuan birthday cake we call Hughes?

Anne said...

p.s. Another part is self-loathing. It's everywhere and colors every policy choice, wrecking ball, and piece of history.

That's why the Vanity Fair thing was so intriguing -- it's OK to diss your own family, but heaven forefend anyone else try it!

Keith Banner said...

I'm not from here but have lived here for about 20 years so I have this detached attachment to this place and its culture.

From my point of view, there's something eerily sweet and homemade but formal and slightly pretentious about Cincinnati culture and I like it that way. Lots of little galleries and theater groups and local writers and dancers and all that jazz. There always seems to be something brewing or closing or opening.

By "culture," I guess I'm going by this old-school definition: the quality in a society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.

Using that measure,and my personal experience, the best example of Cincinnati culture for me happened about a week ago. I went to a celebration for Brian Joiner at Mary Barr-Rhodes studio above Carl Solway's gallery. The place was packed with a host of local visual-arts people, patrons and artists and college professors and writers and arts-organization bureaucrats,etc., all coming together to support a local artist and celebrating his life and work... It was truly an example of culture, but also of something more vital and necessary: a concern for what culture is capable of doing when things get serious.

The Creation Museum is a joke with a horrifying punchline. It's not defining anything regional outside of meanness and hysteria, and that's in eveyr region of course. That's not culture. It's propaganda.

The thing for Brian Joiner was a much better example...

Me said...

The Brian Joiner Celebration was a very nice representation of the city's culture. The coming together for the artist, art and our community is a great example of what we do "when things get serious."

I think if we approach Cincinnati's culture with this kind of seriousness (I call it honesty and integrity), we would be higher on the list of cultural cities.

Instead we fight for time in the spotlight to repeat and celebrate what other cities have done (splash dances, fashion week).

VisuaLingual said...

Good point, Kathy.

Roderick Vesper said...

I feel like Cincinnati is constantly dealing with Napoleon Syndrome. It's a small city that wants to be big and therefore it often tries to emulate what is happening in the larger cities whether it makes sense for us or not. So the identity seems to be in a constant state of flux. Change is good, but it should be based on a strong foundation so that the changes are more about making progress.

Of course being a local artist, I am complicit in this pattern and hold myself completely responsible.

Me said...

I am beginning to see Cincinnati culture as one in a continuous (and historical) state of flux. This can make us more dynamic or more vulnerable so requires more integrity.